Rich Strike, the 80-1 shot ridden by Sonny Leon and trained by Eric Reed, mounted a furious and improbable rally to capture the 148th Kentucky Derby on May 7. He was not even in the field until another horse was scratched the day before the race.
But after skipping the Preakness Stakes on May 21, forgoing a shot at the Triple Crown, Rich Strike will look to prove in the Belmont Stakes on Saturday that his Derby win was no fluke.
The Belmont horses are listed in order of post position, with comments by Joe Drape and Melissa Hoppert of The New York Times. The morning-line odds were set by David Aragona of the New York Racing Association.
Purse: $1.5 million guaranteed Distance: 1½ miles
Track record: For a mile and a half, 2:24 (Secretariat, 1973); for a mile and an eighth, 1:45.40 (Secretariat, 1973)
Weight: 126 pounds
Post time: Saturday at 6:44 p.m. Eastern
How to watch: Coverage on Saturday begins on CNBC at 3 p.m., Eastern time, and moves to NBC at 5 p.m. Coverage will also be streamed on NBCSports.com.
Joe Drape’s win-place-show picks: Rich Strike, Mo Donegal, We the People
Melissa Hoppert’s picks: Mo Donegal, Creative Minister, We the People
Here’s how we see the field:
Trainer: Rodolphe Brisset Jockey: Flavien Prat Odds: 2-1
Drape: This colt possesses the high cruising speed that usually wins this race.
Hoppert: His gate-to-wire romp on an off track in the Peter Pan at Belmont was his third win in four starts. With rain in the forecast, will anyone be able to catch him?
Trainer: Saffie Joseph Jr. Jockey: Manny Franco Odds: 20-1
Drape: Of the late runners in this field, he is the slowest. Looking elsewhere.
Hoppert: The fifth-place Preakness finisher has at least one thing going for him: the best name in the field after his four dark-colored legs, or stockings.
Trainer: Todd Pletcher Jockey: Jose Ortiz Odds: 8-1
Drape: This is a hard-trying filly who will not let We the People get too far from her.
Hoppert: The Kentucky Oaks runner-up has won four of six races and is bred for this marathon race. Pletcher has won it before with a filly, in 2007 with Rags to Riches. Leave her off your exotics at your own risk.
Trainer: Eric Reed Jockey: Sonny Leon Odds: 7-2
Drape: The surprise Derby winner is training like a monster after skipping the Preakness. He should run well.
Hoppert: He is out to prove himself here, and while the distance shouldn’t be an issue, he’d need another perfect trip.
Trainer: Kenny McPeek Jockey: Brian Hernandez Jr. Odds: 6-1
Drape: This colt has tactical speed and may push We the People early.
Hoppert: The third-place Preakness finisher has hit the board in all four of his races beginning with his March debut. Surely there’s a lot of potential left.
Trainer: Todd Pletcher Jockey: Irad Ortiz Jr. Odds: 5-2
Drape: Like Rich Strike, this colt needs to stay close to the pace for his late kick to have a chance.
Hoppert: He ran into some traffic and finished fifth in the Derby, his first time missing the board in six races. Pletcher knows what it takes to win the Belmont, having won three, and the top jockey in New York will have him within striking range.
Trainer: Mark Casse Jockey: Dylan Davis Odds: 20-1
Drape: So far, he has not been good enough to beat his high-end peers.
Hoppert: The Peter Pan runner-up finished 10¼ lengths behind We the People. Pass.
Trainer: John Ortiz Jockey: Joel Rosario Odds: 10-1
Drape: This colt is a consistent check-casher and will be charging at the end.
Hoppert: He had a troubled trip in the Derby but still was able to muster a sixth-place finish. He picks up Rosario, who will make sure he stays in the mix.